Vestal, NY Trains Destroyed By Dynamite Explosion After Crash, June 1901


Both Trains Destroyed by Explosion of Car of Dynamite After Crash at Water Tank.

Binghamton, N. Y., June 9 -- Rescuers and wrecking crews worked until after noon to-day at Vestal, ten miles west of here, where an explosion of dynamite in a Delaware, Lackawanna and Western freight car wrecked two colliding trains, killed five trainmen, and injured several others. Late this afternoon parts of the last body to be accounted for were found a quarter of a mile away from the scene of the explosion.
A corrected list of the killed and injured shows:
JOHN P. KELLY, head brakeman of the wildcat train.
E. R. POLHAMUS, conductor of Train 61.
ELMER POLHAMUS, trainman of Train 61.
JOHN COULTER, fireman first locomotive of the wildcat freight.
FRED WITHERBY, fireman second locomotive of wildcat freight.
HENRY POLHAMUS, flagman of Train 61, badly jarred, left hand torn off.
JOHN LONERGAN, engineer of second locomotive of wildcat, slightly injured, jumped and escaped.
GEORGE MATTHIAS, engineer of first locomotive of wildcat, slightly injured.
CHARLES MILLER, MARTIN KELLY, M. HARRISON, trainmen on the wildcat, slightly injured.
WILLIAM MEDDICK, head flagman on Train 61, slightly hurt.
The dynamite was in a car of freight train No. 61, which was taking water when a double-header wildcat freight train crashed into the stationary train. The impact exploded the dynamite, and both trains were wrecked, and pieces of the locomotives of the wildcat train were found to-day half a mile distant. The tracks were blocked until after midday. Aside from the damage to railroad property, much minor damage is reported. Nearly every house in the villages of Vestal and Union, which is across the Susquehanna from the wreck, lost more or less of its window glass, while houses and barns near the scene were badly shattered. None of the inmates, however, was injured.

Elmira, N. Y., June 9 -- The bodies of the Elmira railroad men killed in the wreck at Vestal were brought here tonight. JOHN LONERGAN, one of the engineers of the wildcat train, says he noticed the train ahead and thought it was moving. The air to the brakes had to be applied from the head locomotive, but when this was done LONERGAN, who was on the second locomotive, seeing that it was too late to avoid a collision, jumped from his engine and landed in a pool of water in a ditch at the foot of the embankment. A second later he saw a flash, which was followed by a terrific report, and for a time he lay partly stunned. As soon as he sufficiently recovered he assisted in the work or rescue, until, overcome by weakness, he collapsed and was taken to the Binghamton Hospital. One of his shoes was torn from his foot and a nail from the shoe driven into the foot. He was deaf for a time, and examination disclosed that one of his ear drums had been broken.

The New York Times New York 1901-06-10